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Oral history interview with Evander Gilmer by Eugene Pfaff


Date: June 10, 1982

Interviewee: Evander Gilmer

Biographical abstract: Evander Gilmer served as treasurer of the Greensboro CORE chapter as a student at NC A&T in 1962 and 1963.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a June 10, 1982, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Evander Gilmer, Gilmer discusses growing up in segregated Greensboro and his participation in civil rights activities as a student at NC A&T in 1962 and 1963. He explains the impetus for resuming demonstrations in Greensboro, the leaders involved, the role and activities of CORE, the lack of support from the adult black community, and their later transition to participation. He also describes his duties as CORE treasurer, his arrests, and his experience during the mass incarceration at the polio hospital.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.514

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Evander Gilmer by Eugene Pfaff

[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

EUGENE PFAFF:

—sketch of yourself.

EVANDER GILMER:

Oh, let's see. Well, I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and lived there through 1967, a greater part of 1967. And I left there at that time to, to come to Maryland to work. And I've been in this area since that time.

EP:

You say you went to—

EG:

I went to school in Greensboro, North Carolina.

EP:

I see. So you went to Dudley High School from what years?

EG:

I graduated in '61.

EP:

I see. Were you a classmate of any of the people who began activism in civil rights in Greensboro?

EG:

Not with the first four persons who sat in at the counters. I knew two of the people, David Richmond and Ezell Blair [now Jibreel Khazan], both of whom also attended Dudley, but they had graduated and had gone on to college.

EP:

Were you a classmate with Bill Thomas or—?

EG:

Yes, we were in the same class.

EP:

I see. How did you first become involved in civil rights activities? [pause] Did you participate—were you a member of the youth chapter of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] and participate in the picketing of the lunch counters in the summer of 1960?

EG:

No, I was not. I didn't really become involved in the picketing or demonstrations of the civil rights movement until 1962 and '[6]3—

EP:

Well, how did—?

EG:

—after I had graduated from high school.

EP:

I see. So you had not engaged in any activity up until that time. How did you become involved with the group that formed the CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] chapter? Had they already formed the CORE chapter?

EG:

As best I can recall, we—I'm not even sure who got us together, but most of the persons who came together, it seems to me it was the summer or one of the summers. It must have been the summer of '62, maybe after a year of college. We met and we were meeting at the [Hayes-Taylor] YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] on Market Street. And I don't recall all of the people. I know that most of us were classmates. Most of us had come from Dudley High School. Most of us were the residents of Greensboro.

EP:

I know that Ezell Blair told me that this group frequently met at Reverend Marion Jones' house. Did you ever meet there?

EG:

I don't recall formal meetings at Marion Jones', Reverend Jones' house, but I do recall some meetings. Now—

EP:

Well, he said these were—

EG:

—some of these were distinguished from the beginning of any civil rights organization, and just meeting and talking.

EP:

What did you talk about?

EG:

Well, it ranged from church activity to things to do, what—where blacks were at the time. Now, my—I used to play for Marion Jones' church, and so was also kind of close to him and to his family. I don't recall formal meetings. I was not a participant in any formal meetings at Marion Jones' house. I remember—

EP:

How—well, a lot of these were characterized as just informal bull sessions.

EG:

Yes, that's right. That's right. That's as much as I remember, and I don't remember anything really formal happening at that time. The people that I can remember that may have been involved at the time were Wendell Scott, who was a cousin of Marion Jones or a nephew or something. He was a relative; his daughters, Betty Wall in particular, but he had a younger daughter that was younger than all of us at the time [Sarah Jones Outterbridge]; Bill [Thomas]. Nobody else comes to mind.

EP:

Were any adults participants?

EG:

At that time, I don't recall. I don't recall adults. Now, I, at the time, thought of [Rev. A. Knighton] “Tony” Stanley as being more adult than child, more adult than even young student, and I'm not even sure when he began to participate. But I can remember him being a regular participant. He was very much like us, but older.

EP:

You say these were discussions. Did you ever do anything in terms of activities, such as test various businesses to see if they would serve blacks?

EG:

I didn't. I recall as we became a little more organized, there were a few people who talked about testing, going and trying in an informal way, seeing if you were going to be turned away from, at that time it usually was the diners, downtown restaurants, theatres. In the materials you sent most of the talk was about McDonald's. But there was another place that we had quite a bit of activity, at least that I remember, and it was at a place called Biff Burger [now Beef Burger] out on Lee Street.

EP:

When would that have been?

EG:

I would say it had to be '62, '63, maybe '63. If it was '63 it was before the summer of '63.

EP:

I know that the newspaper concentrates on the Hot Shoppe in the summer of '62, and then later McDonald's in the spring of '63, and of course then the big push downtown. If—why—there was only one mention of two students being arrested at, presumably they were testing at Biff Burger's, and the charges were dropped. If it was such a concentration of Biff Burger, why was there so little mention of it in the press?

EG:

I don't understand that. And I have to also say that really reading the articles that you sent to me was almost like a revelation. I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the—I don't even remember reading many articles in the paper at the time, mainly, I guess, because we were busy involved in talk about what was going to be next, and who was going to go, and who was going to drive, and who was going to pick up people, and things of that sort. But we did quite a bit at Biff Burger.

EP:

Was it picketing or just testing, or what kind of activity?

EG:

It ranged—sometimes we'd actually test by someone actually going to the counter. Other times we would park in Biff, we'd actually drive in. Sometimes we'd park on the street across, not even on Lee Street, but across one of the side streets, and then walk over and picket out on the street.

Whenever any picketing was going on, it was simply to, I guess, maybe bring attention to the place as being one of the places that we knew was close to areas where blacks lived but were not able to go. Sometimes it would be to test, and of course, someone would actually have to go and ask for service and get denied. And a lot of times we'd have to do that just to find out whether or not anything had changed. It wasn't always the case, as I recall. We didn't always actually ask for service.

EP:

Were these small numbers of people that would go on these occasions?

EG:

At times a car, you know, a car—maybe six in a car. But at times there would be, let's say three or four cars.

EP:

What was the reaction—

EG:

It was usually concentrated, rather than go a lot of places at one time.

EP:

What was the reaction of the management?

EG:

At the Biff Burger's, I don't particularly remember a reaction other than just no service, just ignore, you know, ignore the demonstrators.

EP:

I see. Did they have a set pattern, relatively polite response like McDonald's, or were you just totally ignored?

EG:

I don't remember seeing anything really bad, just being ignored.

EP:

Were there any hecklers?

EG:

Always there was at least a heckler in the experiences I recall. There generally was a heckler or a car that would pass and would be blowing, would blow its horn and people would holler out a window. But I don't recall violence.

EP:

There was never any confrontation?

EG:

No, not at Biff Burger's.

EP:

Were there ever any arrests?

EG:

I don't recall any.

EP:

When they—did the police observe or anything, or was it strictly demonstrators versus the management?

EG:

We always, well, at least I guess I always thought I saw a policeman somewhere, not necessarily on the premises, but I always felt like we were watched, you know. We weren't just there on our own.

EP:

Was there something that would have—

EG:

It was scary, you know, as I think back on it.

EP:

Were you worried that you might be either attacked or, or arrested?

EG:

At that—during, during those times I wasn't particularly thinking about being arrested. One of the other places—well, I recall outside of the city, the places that we went were that Biff Burger. There was also a McDonald's out on High Point Road that we went to, and also one on Summit Avenue.

EP:

Why were these places selected, proximity to the black community, or because they were chains, or what was the basis of the decision?

EG:

I don't know. I was not a part of the decision to go to the places. We just talked about them and I remember going. I don't know who actually decided that those were the places.

EP:

Well, how did you become aware that these places were going to be tested?

EG:

In, I guess it must have been our meetings. For some reason, the only meetings I can recall that were fairly formal were the ones at the Y[MCA], and this was not happening during that time. We were in school, I think, during the time that we were at—I know when we picketed and demonstrated at the McDonald's in close proximity to what was the Hot Shoppe out on Summit Avenue. That was a time during the school year.

EP:

What—would this happen sporadically or was it periodic?

EG:

Oh me, let's see. For a while, at least what I was involved in was not regular in the beginning, but it began to pick up. Now, as I said, I—the involvement that I think I had began in the summer of '62 in the regular, in some meetings that became more formal in organizing the local chapter of CORE. When school started, there wasn't as much activity as during that particular summer. And I think that it was the summer of '62 that there were several people from the outside who also came in.

EP:

Do you know why the activity was not as intense during the school year?

EG:

Well, it could—maybe it was that it was easier for us to be together in the summer. We—

EP:

Didn't have the pressure of school?

EG:

I don't know, I don't how many people were actually working, but we were there during the summer. It was our first year through college. Most of us were at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] or at Bennett [College], and almost—well, all of us knew each other. There had been a lapse in time from when the first sit-ins took place and there were a lot of demonstrations, and then relatively nothing, it seemed, happening. And yet the concern that the sit-ins had started, there had been a lot of attention, there were things happening other places now and almost nothing happening in Greensboro. You know, nothing opening, no demonstrations, no picketing.

It seemed that other cities, other blacks throughout the South had begun to make known their discontent with segregation, and there were things being done. Places were opening. And that places were opening—were integrating was some of the motivation for starting again. And then here we were during the, during the summer. There wasn't a lot of other activity and we were organizing. And, you know, almost all we had was each other, and the organization was a nice way to bring people together and then we talked about what we could do. And I think it was that summer, the summer of '62, that we did some things at the Hot Shoppe, which was out on Summit Avenue.

I recall one time when—and this was sitting-in, going into the restaurant and sitting down—and there were times when we would go in and completely fill the Hot Shoppe. And people would go with novels and books. The intention was to fill it, and if they wouldn't serve us they would lose business. I recall in my car one particular time, Ezell and I'm not sure, maybe someone else went out, and many people were already at the Hot Shoppe. And by the time we arrived the management took a very—a big stand at keeping any more out. And Ezell and I, and it seems like there was someone else, were about to enter and they met us at the door. There were people—maybe there was a manager and there seemed to be detectives or some policemen that were not in uniform who would not let us in and then marched us back to our car, and I was the person who was driving.

EP:

The police marched you back to your car?

EG:

Yes. They, well, they turned us away and told us to get off of the property. Now there were others inside, and we then thought, well, since there are people in there, you know, why concentrate on not letting us in? There are already plenty of people already in there. And I recall that as I was about to drive off—and it was kind of scary, though we, we tried to act as though we had a right to go in—we, as I was leaving though, my car rolled forward. And there was a concrete abutment or something there, and my bumper rolled against it. And they stopped me and were acting as though they were going to charge me for damaging property or something of that sort. But—

EP:

Did they charge you?

EG:

—I recall we left and nothing happened. I think I just pulled away and nothing ever happened. But they threatened, they threatened us. And what I recall is people that—I think that we were told were detectives or they acted as though they were detectives. There were no arrests. They didn't arrest us. They didn't—

EP:

Were they uniformed city police?

EG:

They were not uniformed, no. They had either sport coats and trousers, or a shirt and trousers. But they appeared big, and they were to me, at the time, police or somebody of authority.

EP:

I know the police—

EG:

They used that authority on us.

EP:

The police—the newspaper mentioned that the Hot Shoppe hired private police or guards.

EG:

Maybe that's what it was. These men were at the door. And we saw them, but we were going to go in, because there were people in there. And at the time the place was pretty full. Most of our people were already in there. And they just kept us out.

EP:

So you say you did, in fact—

EG:

And they threatened us. You know, that was—there weren't that many times when I felt really intimidated by policemen threatening to do something to us. And at the time we weren't thinking about being arrested. We were simply going to go in and completely use up all counter and table space.

EP:

So you did, in fact, leave the property?

EG:

Yes we did, we left.

EP:

Did you return?

EG:

And that particular incident, because of what happened, was one of the things that stood out in my mind.

EP:

Did you return subsequently?

EG:

Not that day.

EP:

But on another day?

EG:

Yes, yes we did.

EP:

Ezell Blair has given me a certain scenario, sequence of events. He said that they, of course, picketed the dime stores in the spring and summer of '60. And then in that fall they—there were just these informal meetings that you've mentioned. And then there was infrequent testing of different areas, no any formal organization. And then they—a picture appeared in the paper of the picketing of the Cinema Theatre in February of '61 under an organization entitled Intercollegiate Council for Equality, which was made up of some people who had been in the Student Executive Committee for Justice that had conducted the lunch counter picketing and sit-ins.

Then he says that in the—they had been contacted during the sit-ins by CORE but had politely refused, wanting to keep it student-centered, but that Reverend Jones contacted Elton B. Cox [sic-B. Elton Cox] over at High Point. And he was a CORE field representative, and he came and spoke, and that sometime in May of 1962 they decided to form a CORE chapter. And they were visited by Gordon Carey [assistant director of CORE] and others in CORE and they—that same summer there was a two-week training session for the Freedom Highways projects.

This—from the CORE papers and from the news, local newspaper here it appears that different places were tested, and then—particularly the Hot Shoppe—and then everybody went back to, I think it was Providence Baptist [Church], which was the headquarters. And I think they took their meals at Bennett College and—for two weeks there from July fifteenth through July thirty-first—and then they would have training sessions on how to negotiate, how to protect yourself, how to picket, nonviolent direct action techniques. Does this sequence sound familiar?

EG:

It does. I remember B. Elton Cox and Gordon Carey, that—and I guess that was the summer that, of the time that I described when we went to the Hot Shoppe. We were testing places. I don't recall all the people involved. The two people from the outside who linger in my mind are B. Elton Cox and—from High Point, I think he was from High Point, and Gordon Carey, as a representative [of CORE]. I didn't realize that Marion Jones was the person who had called Elton Cox to come over. I don't know those names of organizations that you—

EP:

Did you recall attending these workshop sessions?

EG:

Some of those workshop sessions, yes, yes.

EP:

What sort of things went on in those sessions?

EG:

Our—it seemed like the thrust of the training I went through was in nonviolence, not in negotiating. In—I have hardly no recollection at all of those, of those workshops. I did not—I know I did not attend them full-time. I don't know how they ran, but I remember the group, I remember going. I don't remember—I don't even recall it was Providence Baptist Church.

EP:

Why was your—

EG:

[unclear] of where, of where the Providence Baptist Church was, and I know we did a lot of things there. But it seemed like people came from, from outside of Greensboro to those workshops.

EP:

Well, a number of—according to the CORE papers, they invited a number of people from all over the country, particularly the people who had been active in CORE in Louisiana. And apparently CORE sent some volunteer field representatives. Several names that frequently appeared are Isaac Reynolds, George Raymond, Hunter Morey. Do any of these names sound familiar?

EG:

I remember Hunter Morey and Isaac Reynolds are names that I recall, but I never would have thought of them.

EP:

Do you remember what these people were like in terms of physical appearance or temperament?

EG:

No, I do not. I do not. I don't even remember—well, I could possibly recognize Gordon Carey. But of those others, I don't know them.

EP:

What role did these people play? Did they advise the local people here upon what places to, to concentrate their efforts upon and what manner of demonstrations to perform?

EG:

I only think they did. I don't really know what they did.

EP:

So you were not—

EG:

I am not sure of the people who influenced where we would go or that we should even do anything. I just, I just remember being involved. In our—even in the CORE meetings, there weren't droves of people. There were just, I would say no more than thirty, if that many.

EP:

Did it tend to be the same people every time?

EG:

Yes, yes. In Greensboro, the Greensboro people were the same people.

EP:

Did CORE actively try to solicit memberships at this time? The CORE chapter?

EG:

I'm only guessing. I think that if Reverend Cox came over from High Point, that may have been the beginning of our thinking about organizing a CORE chapter. There wasn't another group in Greensboro that was doing anything at all. And once the students from A&T had gone, there really wasn't anybody to carry on. Ezell was the person who had both been involved in the beginning who was still in Greensboro and still at A&T. But there weren't any other students.

EP:

Was there any involvement from, either from individual adults or from the formal organizations such as the NAACP or the Greensboro Men's Club?

EG:

No, for me no involvement. I recall no involvement by the NAACP. In fact, it worried us that they, they weren't, they didn't seem interested in doing anything at the time. The people who were involved were a couple of professors from Bennett College.

EP:

The names I have are John Hatchett and James Bush, and Elizabeth Laizner.

EG:

Yeah, those three and for some reason I want to say McMillan.

EP:

Yes, James McMillan is another name I had.

EG:

Okay, those four plus Tony Stanley. And I'm not sure if he was on the Bennett faculty at the time or staff at the time or not. But those were the—the adults.

EP:

What sorts of things did they do?

EG:

I don't even recall McMillan as being very involved with what was actually going on, though he had been a supporter. I don't recall him doing any more than talking.

EP:

What sort of things would these adults say or suggest?

EG:

Oh me. I know they were supportive. The only home that was sometimes open to us for meetings was Elizabeth Laizner, Dr. Laizner's apartment. And the others were just supporters of a civil rights action group. And as I, as I recall what they did, they provided advice. They seemed to be ready to march, and they did. They were the ones who also marched, and they were the few in the 62-'63 beginnings—

EP:

Did they suggest—

EG:

—who actually marched with students.

EP:

Did they suggest actual targets and tactics to be used at those targets?

EG:

I think they may have, but I don't ever recall being a part of the decision making on where we would go. I remember being around when we discussed what we were going to do in those places. And I was always a person who took people and who, who had who signs and who picketed, or who demonstrated or who stood around. But I don't recall any involvement in any of the decision making in that time.

EP:

Did—what sort of things were discussed as possible tactics? Anything besides picketing?

EG:

Well, all I can recall is the numbers, getting people, enough people to go. To make sure that we were orderly, that we remained nonviolent, which was a thing that we talked a lot about. And, I'm trying to think of what else it could have been—to not, to not spread ourselves too thinly with too many places.

EP:

So you concentrated on a few?

EG:

Yes, yes. And to work at trying to get somebody in Greensboro to open up a place, to actually integrate, so that we'd have some example of some group, some establishments that opened.

EP:

Did you have any successes prior to the opening of the Hot Shoppe in the summer of '62?

EG:

I don't think of any, no. I didn't even recall that the Hot Shoppe actually opened in '62.

EP:

Apparently they opened up after less than a week of picketing.

EG:

I know we sure—we sent a lot of people out there. And I do recall in Greensboro being able to go to the Hot Shoppe. It was one of the most pleasant things we were able to do while we were there. And we'd never experienced really being able to go to a place that had—a chain place that served things like hamburgers and French fries and chocolate sundaes, other than Farabees[?], which was over on Market Street, almost across from the Y. That was the only place that we had to go that was a respectable place in the community, and it was only a small shop. And now we were able to go into a very modern-looking facility, and they had a drive-in. And I recall many times we went out there after it opened.

EP:

Was there ever any trouble, heckling, or threats or anything after it opened?

EG:

We could always expect someone to say something, but nobody particularly did anything. We had to get our nerve up, to actually drive in and park, learn how to use the speakers and things of that sort.

EP:

Were you present when the desegregation was announced, and it was announced that the Hot Shoppe was going to open up?

EG:

I don't really recall it.

EP:

Well, I gather, then, that you were not part of this ad hoc group that met with businessmen in December of '61 and—December '62 rather, through March of '63?

EG:

No.

EP:

I see. Well, you've mentioned some things about how the CORE chapter was formed. Can you elaborate upon that, and your election as treasurer?

EG:

All of that was more informal than formal. As I said, we, we all knew each other. It was kind of an extension of high school friends. And we may have had elections, I'm not sure we did, but—

EP:

Do you recall who the first officers were and any sequence of officers?

EG:

No, I don't. I don't—I think we were the first. I'm not sure of who followed. I'm not even sure when we went out, you know, when our actual positions terminated.

EP:

Well, the sequence of officers that I have in mind, based upon CORE papers and previous interviews, was that Evander Gilmore was—I'm mean [laughs], I'm sorry—Wendell Scott was the first chairman, but he had to leave in the—or he did leave in the summer of '62. And Ezell Blair was more or less an acting president until Bill Thomas was elected as permanent chairman. And I believe Lewis Brandon and then later Pat Patterson was vice chairman, Betty Wall was secretary, Lois Lucas was public relations chairman. Does this sound familiar?

EG:

You know, Lois Lucas is the only person that was kind of an outsider of the group, of the people that you named.

EP:

By outsider, what do you mean?

EG:

She wasn't from Greensboro. I don't know where she was from. I think she was a Bennett student.

EP:

Well, were there—Elizabeth Laizner has characterized to me that there were people who were more activist than others. They wanted to do something now, right away. And others were kind of more hesitant, saying, “Let's think about it some more. Let's plan some more. Let's have a definite course of action.” Did you get any sense of that?

EG:

No, but it doesn't sound like it's completely wrong. I know there were times when we thought we should—at least in the group, we talked about holding off until we, we knew for sure who we had supporting us and we could go off, and others—and delaying a while to see what would happen. And others who would say, “I think we need to, while we have the ball going, keep moving.”

EP:

Do you remember who would have advocated which?

EG:

I don't know. I don't remember.

EP:

What were your duties as treasurer?

EG:

I don't even recall duties as a treasurer. I didn't handle money. I read that question you had, about how we got money and what we used money for.

EP:

How did you get money?

EG:

I don't even remember using money. It seems like everything we did was stuff that we either made ourselves or we paid for ourselves.

EP:

There was some—

EG:

I don't ever remember being reimbursed for things that I did.

EP:

There was some activities that were mentioned in the CORE papers. I know there was an org[anization]—a program to have James Baldwin [author of Go Tell It on the Mountain] speak at different places, and apparently he did speak here at Greensboro. Do you remember that?

EG:

I only recall James Baldwin at A&T, and I don't recall CORE doing that, that speech.

EP:

I see. The national office had a record of freedom songs recorded, and apparently they were sold throughout the country. Do you recall any of them being sold here in Greensboro?

EG:

Do you have a—do you have a, an album? I could describe to you the album I know about and—

EP:

I don't have an album. Perhaps if you would describe what you're talking about.

EG:

Were these people—where was it recorded? Do you know if it was recorded—

EP:

I think it was out of New York.

EG:

No. Well, then I don't know about that album.

EP:

What was the one you were thinking of?

EG:

There was one that was recorded at A&T and was called Freedom Songs or Freedom something. And I'm not even sure who it—but I do have one of those albums still.

EP:

Who was it recorded by or under whose authority?

EG:

I'm not sure whose authority but it was done, it was—the music was coordinated by the choir director at A&T.

EP:

And was it locally produced here in Greensboro?

EG:

I'm trying to think. I think it was. It may have been in Charlotte. But it was somewhere not too far. I believe it was—I believe it was in Greensboro. I have the album and perhaps that information is on the album.

EP:

Was that under the auspices of CORE?

EG:

I think it was. That's why I was wondering if the album you mentioned was, was this album or not. I'm not sure how it was distributed. I never knew of it being a source of income to any particular group. And I'm not even sure why it was done, but it had all of the freedom songs of the time on it. But it was done by members of the choir at A&T, and I think the attempt was to try to put out something that was a little more polished than—or something that showed that there were more trained voices than some of the music before that time, which was generally just groups getting together and singing at—without any particular rehearsals.

EP:

Did you have any input as to whether you would organize as a CORE chapter or some other? I know SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] held an initial meeting at Shaw University in April of 1960, and I got the impression that SNCC was very popular with black college students at the time. Was there any discussion as to whether you should go SNCC or CORE?

EG:

I don't recall any. CORE became the active group and the only—really, the first group that I became involved with and knew a little about in '62—I guess it was '62.

EP:

Did you participate in the “flush-in” at the [Guilford] County Courthouse with B. Elton Cox? They went in there, and they just went in and flushed the toilets and walked out, as a way of disregarding or protesting against the "whites only" or the segregated toilet facilities.

EG:

I'm not sure if I was. I did go to the courthouse, but I don't know if those were later demonstrations, maybe in '63. At some, at some point, we did go to the courthouse and I did go in.

EP:

Do you recall the circumstances of that occasion? What you did?

EG:

All I—I don't remember going in a bathroom. All I remember is picketing.

EP:

I see. Could you characterize any of the people that were involved? I've mentioned Betty Wall, Wendell Scott, Bill Thomas, and the other people that you've mentioned—Lewis Brandon, Pat Patterson, Lois Lucas, Paula Jewel, and—

EG:

That's the one name that I don't recall at all.

EP:

Paula Jewel?

EG:

Yes. I know her, but I don't recall her being active at all.

EP:

Her name was supplied to me by Ezell Blair, who is now known as Jibreel Khazan. He has taken a Muslim name.

EG:

Yes. I don't recall her name, though. I mean, I don't recall her being active in that summer of '62 and on.

EP:

I see.

EG:

And I don't think she could have been during the '63 times. Maybe it was—

EP:

I believe she had left.

EG:

—the summer of '62. Because she was at Howard [University], and she wasn't even there.

EP:

Well, how about Bill Thomas? How would you characterize him?

EG:

I would say a leader. He—I'm even more surprised now at reading the involve[ment]—reading about the involvement. I know that then he was more the organizer and catalyst of the group, as far as the students were concerned. He was the person who, to me, was the, was probably the involved student with any other persons who were negotiating. And I'm not sure of Ezell's involvement at that time.

EP:

I get the impression it tapered off because he was elected president of the student body at A&T.

EG:

Yes, well maybe that was the reason for him not also being the president or be—having a very active role in the city organization. This was not—well, it seems like in your article that says something about CORE, the A&T chapter, but I never thought of it as A&T but more a Greensboro chapter.

EP:

So it wasn't affiliated with the schools?

EG:

I didn't think of it that way. Most of us were at A&T, but there were some Bennett students also. In fact, when I was talking to my wife, who was at Bennett at the time, and she was talking about some of the things that they were doing during the time that the mass groups were in jail. But, but I don't recall it particularly associated with Bennett or A&T. The adult members—the adult advisors were from Bennett College. There was absolutely nobody from A&T who was an adult who participated—

EP:

How about—

EG:

—that I can remember.

EP:

How about Betty Wall or Lewis Brandon? Can you characterize them?

EG:

Betty I knew. We had been through school together and she was a—I always saw her as the one who was willing to go and do some of the things that some of the rest of us weren't sure that we wanted to actually do.

EP:

For instance—

EG:

I don't know that she was a part of the planning to, to demonstrate, but she was one of the ones who did demonstrate. And she was one of the early demonstrators in the second movement, not the, the '60 movement, but the movement that started in '62. And I recall someplace downtown. You know where the public library is now, there was—Commerce Place. Something on Commerce Place that we also picketed.

EP:

Well, there was a, kind of like a hamburger place there, a grill. Does that sound right?

EG:

Gosh, I don't know. I don't know why I even remember that. But I remember when I think of Betty Wall, I think of some of the first places, and it was somewhere up in there. And she was one of the ones who was a picketer.

EP:

I see. Does anything come to mind about Lewis Brandon?

EG:

Nothing more than he was an active, he was an active member. And he was not a Greensboro person either. I'm not sure where Lewis came from, but—

EP:

He was from Asheville.

EG:

Okay, but he was at A&T, and we all met at A&T.

EP:

Oh, you actually met on the campus of A&T?

EG:

Yes.

EP:

Where would you meet?

EG:

I met him there. He came to Greensboro, he was going to A&T at that time. I'm not sure if he was a student or a student teacher at A&T, but he was there during the summers—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EG:

—most of our college days. I'm not sure where he was before that time.

EP:

Was he very active?

EG:

I recall him being involved. And I, I think I recall him being almost anywhere I was, so—I don't recall him particularly being one of the leaders of the group.

EP:

There was a form letter sent to ministers to attend a mass rally on November 18 in 1962 at Providence Baptist. Do you recall this letter being sent out and the resulting rally?

EG:

Vaguely. I remember we talked about the involvement of ministers, because the ministers were pretty much the catalysts in the black community. If they were supportive, then maybe their congregations would be.

EP:

Did they come out and support you?

EG:

No. I don't recall many of—many ministers participating. I noticed in the literature, Otis [pause]—

EP:

Hairston?

EG:

Otis Hairston, and I do remember some involvement by Otis Hairston and by Cecil Bishop. But it was difficult in the beginning to, as I recall, to get involvement by ministers.

EP:

Was there any indication of why they didn't want to become involved?

EG:

Well, it seemed, it seemed to me that the adults at that time weren't, weren't supportive, because they weren't sure what we were doing was right. You know, they—

EP:

Didn't support—

EG:

—didn't particularly want to rock that big boat and they may have feared losing jobs. I don't know exactly what it was that they feared, but there wasn't support by the adult Greensboro community.

EP:

How about George Simkins [president of the Greensboro NAACP chapter]?

EG:

As far as I can remember.

EP:

I see. Was George Simkins supportive at all?

EG:

At some point he was. I think it was more toward late '63 though, that I recall. I don't recall any involvement during the summer of '62.

EP:

Did you—

EG:

It was more like CORE—there were two organizations that I would suppose the press would say were working against each other, in a way. You know, there was an NAACP, there always had been an NAACP, but they weren't the people who were involved at all.

EP:

When you say “working against each other”—they didn't try to dissuade you did or any[thing]?

EG:

They didn't support. They just didn't seem to support—

EP:

I see.

EG:

—what was being done, and a lot of times we were wanting—it was looked at as the “outside agitators” who had come in and gotten the students all riled up, and it was students from outside who were causing this trouble in Greensboro.

EP:

But that's not an accurate assessment, is it?

EG:

No, it isn't, because the students who were initially involved were Greensboro people. Lewis Brandon, Pat Patterson, and Lois Lucas were the only ones from the outside. All of us knew each other. All of us had come through schools together—the public schools of Greensboro together.

EP:

Did you ever communicate with the national office of CORE—

EG:

No, I didn't.

EP:

—in any capacity?

EG:

No, I did not.

EP:

Now, other than these—

EG:

Not that I can recall.

EP:

I see. Other than these meetings in the summer of '62 with Gordon Carey, and I believe Jim McCain was another individual that came down from New York, did you ever meet them? [pause] Or James Farmer [director of CORE]?

EG:

Yes. I met them, yeah.

EP:

What were they like? [pause] Were they friendly? Were they aggressive? Were they, "Come on, let's move, let's do this," or—

EG:

Gordon Carrey was impressive, and I guess he was impressive because all the rest of us were black and he wasn't. And of course, Dr. Laizner was not black either. But there were few whites who were actually involved with the planning. And I think another impressive thing to us at the time was that here was an organization that was called the Congress of Racial Equality, and it involved blacks and whites, which is what we were striving for.

EP:

There was never any resentment or feeling that whites might come in and try to dominate the organization?

EG:

In the beginning, no. I don't ever remember the group being particularly dominated by whites. Gordon Carey had a, as I recall, had quite a bit of involvement. Dr. Laizner was an active body, and being an adult and being a member of the Bennett faculty, seemed to lend support to the organization. And of course, with students, I think, at the time, needed to have some adults that seemed like they wanted to be involved. And we wanted also to have at least—well, maybe I'm talking as me. I felt we needed to have not just blacks demonstrating. If we could have blacks and whites, it would be even better, because at the time it seemed that everybody would want to show blacks against whites.

EP:

I get the impression that overall the people were appreciative of sympathetic blacks, I mean, sympathetic whites. Was there anyone who resented white participation or activity?

EG:

I don't recall anybody who did—

EP:

So there's a—

EG:

—and because I know that as different as we found Dr. Laizner was, we still knew that she was a supporter. And we did go to her house and we did have meetings there.

EP:

When you say she was different, what, what do you mean?

EG:

Well, seems like she had some kind of accent.

EP:

Yeah, she was German.

EG:

Yes. Okay, well she—that's what I was thinking. And she was—she looked fettle. I don't know how old she was but for us she was an older person—

EP:

I think she was in her forties.

EG:

Yes. She was older. And there wasn't anybody that was about her age, who had her level of education, and who had the status of a professor, and who still acted like a student. You know, she was willing to go. She was willing to serve in anyway. She was supportive.

EP:

Was she influential in CORE?

EG:

I don't think so. She was just an active person that we could count on.

EP:

Was she respected?

EG:

I'm not sure I would say yes. And the reason I'm not sure I would say yes, she was respected—she was respected in that she was obviously a supporter and willing to be a part of the group. But she was different from the group. None of us—well, at least I wasn't used to being around any whites at all. And to be around a few that seemed to want to be a part of the group, wanted to work, wanted to share in the responsibility to awaken the community—and I think that's what we thought we were doing—she was respected in that way. But she was different, her ways were different. Her dress was different. She was more old-timey. We were young and full of play, and she wasn't particularly that way.

EP:

She was pretty serious.

EG:

Yes, yes.

EP:

Several people have characterized her as being very emotional. Would you recall her as such?

EG:

Yeah, I would say yes. I would say more emotional than not.

EP:

How about John Hatchett and James Bush? Were they very aggressive? I don't mean to use that in a pejorative or negative term, but I get the impression they were very activist, "Let's do something now."

EG:

They were. They were. There was another person that I didn't see listed who was white and who I met during those, those, that particular year, '62-'63. It was Dick Ramsey.

EP:

Yes, tell me about Dick Ramsey.

EG:

I'm not sure how he became involved, but I do know that he was affiliated with the American Friends Service Committee. And I know that we also went to his house at times. He had an apartment, an apartment up where the Sears use to be, somewhere up in that area. Where the—I'm not even sure if that place is a post office, but where the old post office was and then there was the Sears and Roebuck that I don't think now is a Sears and Roebuck.

EP:

What role did he play?

EG:

He was also a body. He was supportive. He didn't necessarily, in my opinion, didn't particularly take any leadership role, but was a person who had a car and was willing to take people, and his apartment was a place we could come and meet. He would—

EP:

Did he officially represent [pause]—

EG:

American Friends?

EP:

Yes.

EG:

I don't think so. I'm not really sure.

EP:

Just as another—you were starting to say that he had a car, it [his apartment] was a place where you could meet. Did he perform other functions?

EG:

Now, I don't recall him picketing but he may have. He was a supporter, and we knew that he was a supporter. And he came to any meetings that he knew about. I'm not sure if he actually joined the group or not, but he was a familiar face and he became a person that we all knew—

EP:

He does seem—

EG:

—and was accepted in the group. And of course, any white person who came into the group at that time would have to either be known or would not be allowed to come in, because we'd wonder if the person would go back and tell about the strategies and things of that sort. But he was one of the persons who was on the in.

EP:

One thing that happened—I don't know if I sent this to you or not, but there was one story where the press, members of the press were going to follow the group. This is after the big push in '63, and this is late May, this is after it had begun. And they were going back to the church. And someone stopped them and said, you know, “You can't come in here.” And they said, “Well, who are you?” And he gave his name, and it was a name that I recognized as being an officer, an early officer of CORE. And someone, the way it was characterized by the press, someone behind him said, you know, “Don't be a fool,” or something like that. “Don't give your name and don't be hostile to the press.” And he apparently withdrew, and they were eventually later allowed into to meeting. Do you recall this incident? And was CORE receptive or suspicious of the press?

EG:

I recall suspicious and receptive. You know, suspicious that things would be leaked out before we wanted them known, but receptive in that there were times when we wanted things to be known. Generally, we'd send out things early enough for everybody to know what was, what generally was going to happen.

EP:

Did you have any role in contacting the press?

EG:

No, I did not.

EP:

Well, a lot of this that's reported in the press shows, you know, amazing, incredible restraint and discipline on the part of the, particularly the CORE members, but also everyone involved in the demonstrations. Was there any anger—I mean more than the understandable frustration?

EG:

I would, I would say yes, probably yes. We knew that we were to be nonviolent. We had another obstacle when A&T opened—A&T and Bennett opened. We had to make sure that whenever we did anything with all of the students, that we had rallies beforehand to make sure that they knew that we weren't to be violent in any way. And we dwelt on that. But I'm sure that we didn't feel that sometimes it was just to be nonviolent when there were people who, of course, would call you every name, every conceivable name, hoping that you would just do something. And of course, we knew that if we were to do anything, we'd probably be arrested. And of course, it would not be something that we could get out of. You know, we would definitely have committed some kind of a crime had we, you know, had we entered into a fight or anything of that sort.

EP:

Well, let's personalize this. What was your feeling, your reaction, your personal goals, or your perception of the goals?

EG:

Well, I felt that something needed to be done and I was for a long time skeptical about going to jail. However, I did agree with the nonviolent—being nonviolent.

EP:

Why were you skeptical about going to jail?

EG:

Well, it sounds so bad, you know. It's always been bad to say that you were going to jail. And by the time I finally did go to jail, many people before me had been. I don't even remember all of the times that I went. But I know that we were processed downtown at the city hall. And I remember the first several times, it would be spending the night being processed at city hall and then being released. And I—whenever I was released, I was released to my parents.

EP:

What was their reaction to your—were they supportive of your participation?

EG:

No, no, not at all. They thought we were out of our minds, my parents did. And I had the feeling that most of the black adults in Greensboro during that time still felt that we were wrong when we would go downtown and go into places that we were not supposed to go in. The spring of '63, my mother went—it finally reached a point when my mother went downtown.

EP:

Did your father ever participate?

EG:

I don't recall him participating, but he may have even later. I think he did. The first time my mother went, though, from then on she was willing to go. But she didn't want me to go to jail. She was willing to go and to walk downtown. But the time that she went was the big, I, I think it was to be a sit-in on the square at Market and Elm [streets], and then something happened.

We got downtown. We'd had our meeting at Providence and then we filed downtown. When we got—when we flooded the square, what we were to do was to all then congregate in the square. And then the police started coming, and they, with their billys [clubs], locked in all of those who were in the square area. And I guess it was going to be to arrest. And that wasn't something that we had talked about or even thought would happen. We didn't go expecting that. We were going, I think, expecting that we were going to have some prayers in the square area. And my mother was with me at that time. And I remember the police coming up and they were rough with those billys. And they were roping us in in that—

EP:

When you say “rough with those billys,” what were they doing?

EG:

They were trying to contain all of the people in the square.

EP:

So were they prodding you with them and pushing you with them?

EG:

Yes, yes and I remember I was on the inside. My mother and I were on the inside, but we were just on the inside, and we broke loose. We broke loose and [ran] under their clubs. And there was little they could do, because if they had opened up to get us, then others would have come out. And I remember doing that because my mother was in there. You know I, I wasn't sure what they were about to do, whether they were going to arrest us or not, and I felt a little protective at that time.

EP:

What did you do after that point? Did you stay in the area or did you go home or what?

EG:

We started filing back, and they started busing these—or taking these people away. I'm not sure how many people they arrested that night. But there still were a lot of people on the street. Whenever we marched downtown, there were always some of us who were, they may have called us “monitors” at the time, people who walked along to make sure people stayed in twos and moved along.

EP:

Were you ever a monitor?

EG:

Yes, I was. And when we were coming back down, coming from downtown, we were going back to the church, I recall again being roughed up a little by one of the policemen on the street. And my mother wasn't as ready to be nonviolent as we had all, all the rest of us, at least the youth had said we would be. And she was upset that this policeman had pushed me and had raised his billy as though he was going to hit me. And she broke loose and I don't know what—and they got into a verbal thing, and then we started on. But it was from that point—the reason I remember that is from that point, my mother was ready to go. She was ready to participate in the demonstrations.

EP:

Well, that was virtually the end of the demonstrations, wasn't it?

EG: T

hat's right. Yeah.

EP:

Well, this is interesting. I'd like to pursue this. What was your reaction of the reaction of the police? Were they restrained, were they rough, were there ugly verbal exchanges and was there any actual physical abuse?

EG:

I think I probably told you about the only times they were really bad. Well, there was a couple of times when I was arrested. At least once [I was] arrested over at the Carolina [Theatre], and they weren't too pleasant then, because this was toward the end. This was when the first groups went out to the polio hospital, and I was among some of the first to go out to the polio hospital. And there were so many being arrested at that time. Probably rightfully, they were irritated, and I think they were probably very restrained, but they seemed mean.

EP:

Were you part of that group that went in and sat down in the Carolina?

EG:

I didn't get in.

EP:

I see.

EG:

I was arrested right outside.

EP:

And you were arrested—when they arrested you, did they tell you what they were arresting you for?

EG:

It was trespassing.

EP:

But I mean, they actually said, “You are under arrest for trespassing?”

EG:

There was a guy there who repeated the same thing. I don't know, I don't remember what it was he said.

EP:

Was he a policeman or—

EG:

Well, I'm not sure. It seemed like—

EP:

The manager of the theatre?

EG:

He was a man in a coat and jacket, not a uniform. And it was something like, you know, “I can't serve you,” or “You can't come in,” or something. And it was something like if you walked across the line, you got carted off. And, of course, we walked across and then we got carted off.

EP:

I'm interested in the actual process of the arrests. First of all, how many times were you arrested?

EG:

It seems like maybe four or five times. I'm not even sure of the number of times now.

EP:

Now, you say that you went to the polio—how many times were you actually incarcerated?

EG:

That was the only time. In the times before, we were just processed. You know, we went through the waiting and wondering what was going to happen, and then fingerprinting and mugging and all that kind of stuff, taking mug shots, then signing something and being released. And that usually was five or six hours. But the first time that I was in and stayed was when I was arrested at the Carolina Theatre, and they took us to the polio hospital.

EP:

How did they take you to the polio hospital? In what vehicle?

EG:

It seems to me it was a bus.

EP:

I see. You know, one of the big things was—with the council anyway—was a complaint that the students tore up seats and tore off the advertisements in the inside of the bus. Did you ever witness any of that?

EG:

No, I didn't. In fact, we were joyful, we weren't mad. And we were singing. And we were crowded on the bus. If anybody did that—well, you know, I didn't even realize any of that was done. I remember joyfully going out on the bus to wherever it was they were taking us. We were singing freedom songs and really trying to show the police and anybody else who was watching that it was what we wanted— you know, that they weren't hurting us by taking us to jail, they were doing exactly what we wanted them to do.

EP:

What transpired? Did they take you directly to the polio hospital? Or did they process you somewhere else first?

EG:

I think they took us right there. I don't recall going anywhere else.

EP:

And the processing occurred there?

EG:

I don't even recall being processed there. I remember going out there, we had never expected we were going to be going to a hospital. It didn't seem to be ready for us, either. I'm not sure who were on the other wards, but on the ward that I was on, I was the only person that I can remember who was a member of CORE and who had been involved for some period of time. And—

EP:

Were these people—

EG:

—the other people were just students. I don't think—some of them had never been jailed before.

EP:

Were they frightened?

EG:

Some of them were very scared. Some of them weren't sure if they wanted to be there. And some of them had, you know, had just begun to be active, and so they were participating because they felt they should.

EP:

What did you do when you got there?

EG:

Well, they, as I recall, all of the fellows were placed on one of the wards, and I'm not sure if the girls were across from us or on another ward. I'm not sure how many wards were even used, but in the one that I was in, we were completely packed into that ward. And there was a bathroom on that ward, and in the bathroom on that ward there was maybe one toilet that worked. There weren't beds in there. And we weren't sure what was going to happen, but there was a gate, kind of like bars at the entrance of the ward, and there was a policeman there. And I recall those policemen really weren't bad guys. They were tired. I recall talking to them fairly often.

EP:

What would you talk about?

EG:

How long he had been on duty, when he was going to leave.

EP:

Did he sound resentful?

EG:

Whether this was my first time in jail or not, and how I felt, I mean, you know. I don't remember really bad, bad things happening.

EP:

Were these city policemen or sheriff's deputies?

EG:

Maybe I—I call them policemen. I don't know what—they were something to do with the law. I'm not sure they were Greensboro policemen or sheriffs or what. But I think when they realized that we weren't about to break out, you know, we weren't thinking of breaking out of there, not at that point we weren't. Later on it became more difficult, because we ended up staying there for several days. I'm not sure how many days. In fact, in your packet you talk about the Sunday, some rally Sunday. And I recall that Sunday, but we were inside and we couldn't really tell what was going on outside.

EP:

You couldn't see outside?

EG:

No, no. We knew that there were a lot of people there and there was a way to kind of glimpse the crowd. And we could hear things going on, but we were pretty much isolated from the rally. We knew there was a rally.

EP:

How did you pass the time?

EG:

Well, I took some—I don't know where I got paper from, but I took paper. And we had each person put their name, their school, and maybe some other information on this sheet of paper. And we filled it up, you know, because we wanted to account for all of the people who were actually in jail. Now I don't know where those papers got to. I turned them over to Bill or to somebody who finally came to the jail, who finally came on to the thing and was able to talk through to us. We turned over the list of all the people who were on our ward. People just got irritated. They were tired, there wasn't a place to sleep, they didn't know how long we were going to be there. We weren't sure what was happening on the outside. We could hear very little.

EP:

Did you eventually receive blankets and food?

EG:

In the hospital I don't remember blankets. I do remember food, but I don't remember food that I read about from the articles that you sent.

EP:

You mean food wasn't served to you by the sheriff's department?

EG:

The food—I don't know who it was served by, but when it came, it was, oh, very poor quality. It was like dog food. That really stands out in my mind. And I read something in one of the articles you sent about us being fed eggs and bacon or sausage and something, and then as soon as we finished that they were bringing us lunch. It seemed like we waited for hours and hours and hours for our first meal, you know, after we were incarcerated. We waited a long time before we ever got anything. Then when we got whatever it was, we weren't sure we could eat it, you know. It didn't appear as anything that we knew. It was a strange-looking food, as I recall it, and there wasn't much of it. That went on for days. But it wasn't anything great, you know, it wasn't—

EP:

Did you ever receive any food or supplies from students at A&T or Bennett? For instance, the paper talks about the students were organizing, in effect, care packages.

EG:

No. That's what my wife was telling me the other night. She said that they were—she was at Bennett, and she never went to jail. But she was telling about how she and her roommate and some others were putting some packages together for the girls from Bennett who were incarcerated. And they were doing everything from packing sanitary napkins to all other kinds of hygiene and other things, products and things for the girls. And they did send things out. I went with my little packet. Now I had—

EP:

So you were prepared.

EG:

I had gotten to the point where I would go downtown with my toothbrush and you know, a little thing with a washcloth and a little soap. But I wasn't able to use it, because there wasn't water. There was just one little bathroom.

EP:

Did they search you and take things from you?

EG:

Not when we went out there. I don't recall a search. They may have, but I don't recall going through anything that was any kind of—maybe they did as we walked in. But once we were in those wards, we were pretty much in the wards, you know, without anybody ever coming in.

EP:

When you say “wards,” were they large open rooms or were they small individual rooms or what?

EG:

They were narrow, long rooms. I would say—

EP:

So like a hospital ward? I guess that's what it was at one time.

EG:

You know, I would say they were about maybe twenty feet wide and maybe fifty feet long, forty or fifty feet long.

EP:

How many people were in your ward?

EG:

Oh maybe sixty, seventy, a hundred, up—no more than maybe a hundred on the ward.

EP:

Was there room for everybody to lie down and sleep?

EG:

Well, there were some, I guess like operating tables or beds or something. They weren't beds, but flat tables that were higher than a bed would be, with a little, a little padding on it. One person would normally be able to sleep on one, or lay on one. And there were maybe four or five of those, maybe six, as many as six on that ward. And we put—we rammed those all together and then we had a large pad. And we took turns, but we slept head-to-foot, kind of packed on that thing. Now, some people could do that. The others were all on the floors. The ones who slept on it one time would have to get off and let the others have a chance to sleep on it. That was the only thing that was kind of like a bed, but it really wasn't any more comfortable than the floor. Just at the time I think we thought that it might have been because it had a little pad on it.

EP:

This interests me, because I gather that the first mass arrests were where the jail-no-bail effect was first put into effect was Friday, May seventeenth. And the paper talks about the next morning, or the next afternoon the sheriff got authorization to put the people in there. And they were taken from the county and city jails and put into the polio hospital. Then each subsequent group was just packed in there. I got the impression then the males were transferred from the polio hospital to the National Armory—National Guard Armory.

EG:

We were. That was—oh, I'm sure there were four or five days between the time—it seemed like an eternity—from the time that we were in the polio hospital and then were transferred to the armory. And there were days between the time we went into the hospital and the time that we went to the armory.

EP:

Were males and females separated? I mean, there weren't males and females in the same room, were there?

EG:

No.

EP:

What night—were you arrested at night or during the day?

EG:

I was arrested during the day. If Friday was the beginning of it, it must have been Saturday afternoon that I was arrested, because I did not go to a first place. I was taken directly to the polio hospital.

EP:

Was there—

EG:

It didn't seem that anybody was there when we arrived. I don't remember anybody being there.

EP:

Was there any kind of attempt to organize things, to organize discussions to try to have a communications system amongst yourselves and with the outside? Did CORE try to contact you?

EG:

There were a few of us who tried to talk about what we would do, and there wasn't very much that we could do. But we were wondering when we'd be able to talk to somebody like Bill. You know, when—we tried to figure out when they were going to come in. We wanted them to know that we were there, and we weren't sure if anybody knew where exactly some of us were. And we didn't know who, exactly who was arrested. Well, we knew that, Bill probably wasn't, because he usually tried to remain out during those times.

EP:

What did you talk about?

EG:

What we thought was going to happen to us.

EP:

What did you think?

EG:

Well, we didn't think it could go on forever. We didn't think they could keep us there forever. But we weren't sure what they, what they would do. We thought—we were encouraged by the additional people who were coming in, because we could see them filing by going somewhere else. And so we knew people were continuing to come in. Things like that rally, which was on a Sunday, encouraged us. We knew that something was happening. And by this time the community was involved, I mean, by this time, the adult black community was a full force.

EP:

How did you know that they were involved?

EG:

They had been, just before that time, had started coming around. There were adults in the group. Ezell Blair's father was walking downtown. He was one of the first ones who started going down, marching down with the students.

EP:

Were any of the adults incarcerated with you, or were you all students?

EG:

In my ward I don't recall any adults. And I was, I felt I was the adult. You know, I didn't feel it at the time, but as I look back, you know, I was a, at that time, perhaps a leader. You know, I didn't feel, before that time, I'd particularly been in any kind of a leadership role. I was not really involved in any of the decisions. But at that particular time, at the polio hospital, I was the only one who thought about something like taking the names of the people, trying to—people were asking me questions and I didn't know any more than they knew, but, you know.

EP:

Do you think they understand the concept behind, the strategy behind the “jail no bail,” that they were supposed to stay there deliberately to put pressure on the city?

EG:

Well, that's what we talked about. We talked about it, because there were people in the jail who hadn't expected that they would stay, you know, or hadn't expected that they would be there for any time. The other problem was that because it was A&T students, parents now had become upset that their children who were away at college were now in jail, and they wanted them out, and they wondered if they knew what they were doing. Occasionally someone would get in touch with someone on the outside. I didn't have any contact with my parents, who were in the city.

EP:

Did they know you had been arrested?

EG:

Oh, yeah, they knew.

EP:

How did they know? Were they contacted by CORE or the police?

EG:

No. They just knew that if I didn't come back home, I must have been arrested, because I had left with my package. And my mother used to say, “Oh, I don't know why you are doing”—you know—“What are you going to do?” And I said, “Well, I'm going downtown. I might get arrested, so I'm taking this stuff with me.”And they still didn't like the idea of actually being arrested. They had begun to support the idea of demonstrating and showing that we were discontent with the ways, with the laws of the past. But they didn't want me going to the jail. And the way that they knew was when I'd leave, I'd leave with this little pack with my toothbrush and soap and washcloth and deodorant.

EP:

Was it explained to the people before the rally, before you went down, that if they were arrested, that they weren't going to post bail, that it was a “jail no bail” situation?

EG:

Yes, that was explained. I think—well, I always do that—knew that. I never attempted bail. You know, I never even thought about it. I knew if I went, I was to stay until I could get out.

EP:

But you say that some people didn't expect that?

EG:

But not everybody expected that. Some people just got caught up with the enthusiasm of the students who were participating, and they came along and weren't necessarily expecting they were going to have to—they were going to actually be arrested. But then when they were arrested, they weren't expecting they were going to stay for any length of time. And then, in those days, in the polio hospital days, those stays were for a while.

EP:

Did people—was it a voluntary thing, whether or not they'd be arrested?

EG:

Yes—well, you could always turn back. In the demonstration, you could always just not go up to the point where you'd be arrested, if you didn't want to go. So—

EP:

So, there were no quotas about being arrested?

EG:

—if you passed, if you passed over the line or if you walked into the door, you were definitely going to be arrested.

EP:

And you knew you were going to be arrested.

EG:

And you knew—yeah, you knew. So everybody who was arrested should have known that they were going to be arrested, because they had—they could see what was happening before them. You know, all you had to do was follow the person in front of you. And if that person got arrested, if you went on to where that person went, you would surely be walked right off. And it was very standard, the arrests were very standard.

EP:

Were people treated roughly by the police when they were arrested? You get a sense from the newspapers that it was almost like a ritual, that the police knew—the students knew they were going to be arrested. The police had more or less a set spiel that they said about being arrested. And then they took them and put them over to the side until they could get a vehicle to transport them. Was it really that—

EG:

Generally, it was peaceful. I don't ever remember any—and it was because we weren't resisting. Once you resist, then you're in trouble.

EP:

Did you ever see anybody resist?

EG:

Yeah, I saw people not want to walk as fast as they wanted to walk you, and then, of course, they would push you, they would push you on. Of course, they were irritated. If I been in the position I would probably have done the same thing.

EP:

Did the police ever say anything of a derogatory nature to people?

EG:

I did hear some things, yes.

EP:

Name calling, that sort of thing?

EG:

Name calling, yes. Not just name calling, but, “Get back in that line,” and then tag on a name.

EP:

In other words, racial epithets?

EG:

Yeah.

EP:

So the police weren't quite as noble as they were portrayed in the paper.

EG:

They certainly weren't lovable [laughter]. They certainly weren't. When I think about what was going on at the time, they were, I'm surely, I'm sure they were restrained. Sometimes we thought they were rough, and we always thought they were mean, always thought they were mean, because they in the past had always been mean, you know. All of the policemen were generally white males, and if you were doing something wrong, they just whacked you or got you in line.

EP:

Whacked you? I mean, were people actually hit?

EG:

Well, I'm saying, you know, just—or push you with the stick, or pull out the stick, or show the authority with the stick. Now I'm saying this is the way things were before there were demonstrations, so, of course, when the demonstrations were going, every time we saw a policeman we thought, Oh, Lord! And usually, they had that billy in their hand, and I guess that was to make you know that if you got out of line, you were going to get hit.

EP:

Now, you're saying this is the reaction that people who were in Greensboro had experienced before, by Greensboro police?

EG:

Yes.

EP:

Had you ever personally been confronted with that?

EG:

Not hit, not ever hit. I had been talked to in such a way that I would always fear a policeman, you know, have a kind of a fear of policemen.

EP:

Do you remember any specific instance?

EG:

Well, I lived close to the stadium. And sometimes I'd go down to the Memorial Stadium when there was a baseball game going on, and I would just stand at the gate and try to look in. And they'd always get me away from the gate. And it wasn't a pleasant way—you know, well, I don't know how you can do the job too pleasantly, but it was scary. It was always scary. One would come and move you away from the gate because they would tell you how to get away from that gate, and you knew you'd better get away—things of that sort. My experiences in my early years I now feel were more racial than anything else. In Greensboro I got a lot of tickets, a lot of tickets.

EP:

You mean traffic tickets?

EG:

And all of them were for, for speed, you know speeding thirty-two in a thirty mile zone. And I never learned until later in my life that police gave warning tickets. I never knew that because I never got one. And then I remember when I came through—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EG:

I was arrested during the day. If Friday was the beginning of it, it must have been Saturday afternoon that I was arrested, because I did not go to a first place. I was taken directly to the polio hospital.

EP:

Was there—

EG:

It didn't seem that anybody was there when we arrived. I don't remember anybody being there.

EP:

Was there any kind of attempt to organize things, to organize discussions to try to have a communications system amongst yourselves and with the outside? Did CORE try to contact you?

EG:

There were a few of us who tried to talk about what we would do, and there wasn't very much that we could do. But we were wondering when we'd be able to talk to somebody like Bill. You know, when—we tried to figure out when they were going to come in. We wanted them to know that we were there, and we weren't sure if anybody knew where exactly some of us were. And we didn't know who, exactly who was arrested. Well, we knew that, Bill probably wasn't, because he usually tried to remain out during those times.

EP:

What did you talk about?

EG:

What we thought was going to happen to us.

EP:

What did you think?

EG:

Well, we didn't think it could go on forever. We didn't think they could keep us there forever. But we weren't sure what they, what they would do. We thought—we were encouraged by the additional people who were coming in, because we could see them filing by going somewhere else. And so we knew people were continuing to come in. Things like that rally, which was on a Sunday, encouraged us. We knew that something was happening. And by this time the community was involved, I mean, by this time, the adult black community was a full force.

EP:

How did you know that they were involved?

EG:

They had been, just before that time, had started coming around. There were adults in the group. Ezell Blair's father was walking downtown. He was one of the first ones who started going down, marching down with the students.

EP:

Were any of the adults incarcerated with you, or were you all students?

EG:

In my ward I don't recall any adults. And I was, I felt I was the adult. You know, I didn't feel it at the time, but as I look back, you know, I was a, at that time, perhaps a leader. You know, I didn't feel, before that time, I'd particularly been in any kind of a leadership role. I was not really involved in any of the decisions. But at that particular time, at the polio hospital, I was the only one who thought about something like taking the names of the people, trying to—people were asking me questions and I didn't know any more than they knew, but, you know.

EP:

Do you think they understand the concept behind, the strategy behind the “jail no bail,” that they were supposed to stay there deliberately to put pressure on the city?

EG:

Well, that's what we talked about. We talked about it, because there were people in the jail who hadn't expected that they would stay, you know, or hadn't expected that they would be there for any time. The other problem was that because it was A&T students, parents now had become upset that their children who were away at college were now in jail, and they wanted them out, and they wondered if they knew what they were doing. Occasionally someone would get in touch with someone on the outside. I didn't have any contact with my parents, who were in the city.

EP:

Did they know you had been arrested?

EG:

Oh, yeah, they knew.

EP:

How did they know? Were they contacted by CORE or the police?

EG:

No. They just knew that if I didn't come back home, I must have been arrested, because I had left with my package. And my mother used to say, “Oh, I don't know why you are doing”—you know—“What are you going to do?” And I said, “Well, I'm going downtown. I might get arrested, so I'm taking this stuff with me.”

And they still didn't like the idea of actually being arrested. They had begun to support the idea of demonstrating and showing that we were discontent with the ways, with the laws of the past. But they didn't want me going to the jail. And the way that they knew was when I'd leave, I'd leave with this little pack with my toothbrush and soap and washcloth and deodorant.

EP:

Was it explained to the people before the rally, before you went down, that if they were arrested, that they weren't going to post bail, that it was a “jail no bail” situation?

EG:

Yes, that was explained. I think—well, I always do that—knew that. I never attempted bail. You know, I never even thought about it. I knew if I went, I was to stay until I could get out.

EP:

But you say that some people didn't expect that?

EG:

But not everybody expected that. Some people just got caught up with the enthusiasm of the students who were participating, and they came along and weren't necessarily expecting they were going to have to—they were going to actually be arrested. But then when they were arrested, they weren't expecting they were going to stay for any length of time. And then, in those days, in the polio hospital days, those stays were for a while.

EP:

Did people—was it a voluntary thing, whether or not they'd be arrested?

EG:

Yes—well, you could always turn back. In the demonstration, you could always just not go up to the point where you'd be arrested, if you didn't want to go. So—

EP:

So, there were no quotas about being arrested?

EG:

—if you passed, if you passed over the line or if you walked into the door, you were definitely going to be arrested.

EP:

And you knew you were going to be arrested.

EG:

And you knew—yeah, you knew. So everybody who was arrested should have known that they were going to be arrested, because they had—they could see what was happening before them. You know, all you had to do was follow the person in front of you. And if that person got arrested, if you went on to where that person went, you would surely be walked right off. And it was very standard, the arrests were very standard.

EP:

Were people treated roughly by the police when they were arrested? You get a sense from the newspapers that it was almost like a ritual, that the police knew—the students knew they were going to be arrested. The police had more or less a set spiel that they said about being arrested. And then they took them and put them over to the side until they could get a vehicle to transport them. Was it really that—

EG:

Generally, it was peaceful. I don't ever remember any—and it was because we weren't resisting. Once you resist, then you're in trouble.

EP:

Did you ever see anybody resist?

EG:

Yeah, I saw people not want to walk as fast as they wanted to walk you, and then, of course, they would push you, they would push you on. Of course, they were irritated. If I been in the position I would probably have done the same thing.

EP:

Did the police ever say anything of a derogatory nature to people?

EG:

I did hear some things, yes.

EP:

Name calling, that sort of thing?

EG:

Name calling, yes. Not just name calling, but, “Get back in that line,” and then tag on a name.

EP:

In other words, racial epithets?

EG:

Yeah.

EP:

So the police weren't quite as noble as they were portrayed in the paper.

EG:

They certainly weren't lovable [laughter]. They certainly weren't. When I think about what was going on at the time, they were, I'm surely, I'm sure they were restrained. Sometimes we thought they were rough, and we always thought they were mean, always thought they were mean, because they in the past had always been mean, you know. All of the policemen were generally white males, and if you were doing something wrong, they just whacked you or got you in line.

EP:

Whacked you? I mean, were people actually hit?

EG:

Well, I'm saying, you know, just—or push you with the stick, or pull out the stick, or show the authority with the stick. Now I'm saying this is the way things were before there were demonstrations, so, of course, when the demonstrations were going, every time we saw a policeman we thought, Oh, Lord! And usually, they had that billy in their hand, and I guess that was to make you know that if you got out of line, you were going to get hit.

EP:

Now, you're saying this is the reaction that people who were in Greensboro had experienced before, by Greensboro police?

EG:

Yes.

EP:

Had you ever personally been confronted with that?

EG:

Not hit, not ever hit. I had been talked to in such a way that I would always fear a policeman, you know, have a kind of a fear of policemen.

EP:

Do you remember any specific instance?

EG:

Well, I lived close to the stadium. And sometimes I'd go down to the Memorial Stadium when there was a baseball game going on, and I would just stand at the gate and try to look in. And they'd always get me away from the gate. And it wasn't a pleasant way—you know, well, I don't know how you can do the job too pleasantly, but it was scary. It was always scary. One would come and move you away from the gate because they would tell you how to get away from that gate, and you knew you'd better get away—things of that sort. My experiences in my early years I now feel were more racial than anything else. In Greensboro I got a lot of tickets, a lot of tickets.

EP:

You mean traffic tickets?

EG:

And all of them were for, for speed, you know speeding thirty-two in a thirty mile zone. And I never learned until later in my life that police gave warning tickets. I never knew that because I never got one. And then I remember when I came through—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EG:

—looking like I didn't stop. And you know, things of that sort.

EP:

So you did suffer police harassment?

EG:

I felt I, I felt I did, now. Now I feel I did. I didn't know that particularly then, I didn't particularly think that. I just thought they did everybody that way. I, you know, I—then I found out later that there were people even in Greensboro who were white who never, you know, who, who sped, who would speed all over the place, and would get stopped and get warned and they would go on their merry way. I never knew what, what that, you know, what a warning ticket was. I never even knew that I could be warned not to do that again and I could get off, you know. I just knew that as soon as I saw those lights, that was a ticket.

EP:

How were you transferred—do you remember how many days you stayed in the polio hospital before you were transported to the armory, and how were you transported to the armory?

EG:

I believe it was more than, more than three or four days, but I don't know the exact number. And I don't recall how we were transferred to the armory, but I do remember that when we got there, that was when we got blankets. When we arrived at the armory, it seemed like we were moving up to a luxury hotel. We were moving into a large armory space and now we could see all of them, all of the people who were arrested. I don't think any girls were there.

EP:

It was just males?

EG:

But I know that we saw all of the fellas now and we were beginning to see people that we didn't know were in jail. And we received blankets and maybe something else, but they were military blankets.

EP:

What were conditions like there?

EG:

We just sat on the floor. We, you know, sometimes you could get two blankets. If you got two blankets, you slept on one and you covered yourself with one, or you rolled one a little for a pillow. We slept on the floor. But it seems like that didn't go on for more than a night or two, a night, maybe. I'm not sure of the length but we were—

EP:

Were you fed?

EG:

—from that point—no, I don't remember being fed there, so maybe it was just a few hours, or a night or so. It seems like they moved us from there to the campus.

EP:

You were starting to say from that point on—what?

EG:

They were, somebody was negotiating to get us out. And we knew that something was happening. And we were hearing the message that the president [of A&T, Lewis] Dowdy, was negotiating something. And we were supposed to be coming out, and we weren't ready to come out.

EP:

How did you, how did you hear—

EG:

We didn't think we should be coming out because he was negotiating. We didn't have anything to do with it. And yet here we were, now moving out of the hospital and into the armory, and then finally to the campus. Something like three or four in the morning we arrived at the auditorium on A&T's campus.

EP:

How did you hear that negotiations were going on?

EG:

I'm not sure.

EP:

Word of mouth?

EG:

I think somehow word did get to us, and I'm not sure how it got to us. I don't recall any specific person coming to tell us, but we knew something was happening. And maybe we just knew it because the guards who had been working there had also become fairly friendly, you know. They didn't have anybody, you know, and if they didn't talk to us they didn't have anybody to talk to. So, you know, they were talk[ing]—they were tired. They were tired like we were tired.

EP:

Did you ever get into any discussions about the justification of the rightness and wrongness of demonstrating or anything like that?

EG:

[pause] Not in our groups. Mostly—well, yes in CORE meetings earlier we talked about whether or not it was legal to do it. We did—now that was back in the summer of '62.

EP:

Did you come up with the impression that it was legal or that it was—

EG:

Yes.

EP:

I meant with the police that you talked with while you were incarcerated.

EG:

I didn't—what was the question?

EP:

Did you ever discuss with the police about demonstrating and—

EG:

No, I don't recall any, any conversations about why we were doing it or whether it was legal or not. Mostly, most of my conversation with the police in the polio hospital was when we were talking about when the meal was going to come, and they were hungry and we were hungry, and when we were going to get bathroom facilities.

EP:

Were there more bath[rooms]—

EG:

We were asking how long we were going to be there and he was asking, “How long are you all going to stay?” You know, that kind of stuff.

EP:

What did you respond to those questions?

EG:

We said—well, on how long we were going to stay, we said, you know, “Well, we'll stay as long as we have to.”

EP:

Were there more bathroom facilities in the National Guard Armory?

EG:

I don't even remember bathroom facilities in the guard—in the armory. It seems that we didn't stay there too long. We got to the guard maybe in the evening, early evening, and stayed there long enough to get settled down and think we were going to sleep there, and then all of a sudden get moved from there to the campus. It's so—it's vague, but I'm telling you I think that must be what happened because I don't remember very much about the armory.

EP:

You don't even remember spending an entire night there?

EG:

No. I just remember going there and being issued blankets, and maybe something to eat, something that you could unwrap, but, you know, not in a plate.

EP:

The newspaper says that the—Dr. Dowdy and Mr. [Jimmie I.] Barber [city councilman] and maybe some other officials from the college came out there about nine o'clock, meaning [the] polio hospital, and I guess you would have already been in the armory by this time, and that he tried to get them to leave voluntarily, and brought up the example of the Durham students, and nobody would leave voluntarily. And then about midnight they began moving, moving the students out involuntarily.

EG:

That may have been what happened. I don't recall him coming out. I do know that we knew before we left the hospital that something was, was getting ready to happen. And I knew—I still remember that there was very little trust in what anybody at A&T was doing, because they had never been supportive of any of the demonstrations in the first place. And so we didn't have any—I had no feeling that whatever they were doing were in, was in the interest of what we had started with our demonstrations. I thought maybe they were being pressured by the governor or by other higher officials in the state to get us out of that jail, because we were using up city money and we were causing trouble and we were focusing attention on Greensboro and things of that sort. That's the way I felt.

EP:

The newspaper said that Sheriff Clayton Jones went to the National Guard Armory and he said that “We're going to move you out.” And the students initially said, “We're not leaving.” And he said, “Listen, you're under my authority. I have the authority to move you when and where I so choose. And if you don't move out voluntarily, then we can move you by force.” And that at that point, all but about a dozen voluntarily moved out and about a, they said approximately a dozen males had to be carried out by the sheriff's deputies. Do you recall this?

EG:

No, I don't. I just know that we left and I know that it was hard convincing us to leave. And I don't even recall—

EP:

Who did the—

EG:

—President Dowdy coming out, but I knew that something was happening. I mean, I can remember that something was happening that was trying to get us out of that polio hospital.

EP:

Well, how were you notified—I'm sorry.

EG:

We were not ready to go, and we weren't sure if we were supposed to go because not a soul from CORE or from any of the leadership of our group had been there to say, “You can leave now.”

EP:

Well, how—

EG:

They didn't show up. I don't recall ever seeing anybody from our side saying, “Now is the time to leave.”

EP:

How were you notified that you were leaving?

EG:

I don't know. Maybe what you described is what happened.

EP:

I see.

EG:

Maybe that's the way we left. All I know is that we did leave, that there wasn't much, there wasn't much choice in the matter.

EP:

And so what happened when you were taken back to campus.

EG:

I remember we were all relatively angry when we arrived at the auditorium and listened to President Dowdy. And we really felt that we had been tricked out of jail, tricked into coming out, because what he was telling us sounded like he sold us.

EP:

What did he tell you?

EG:

I'm trying to think of what he did tell us.

EP:

I get the—

EG:

I don't know. I just know the feeling, I know the feeling we had. And I remember us being very upset with having now been out—after having spent so much time and effort in, to be out and not sure that we got anything. And there was nothing offered. You know, there was—I don't recall anything being offered as, as payment for our coming out. You know, we felt that if we came out, it was because something had opened. Or if we came out, the city was going to do something. And I don't recall him telling us that anything was going to be done.

EP:

Was he shouted down? Was he booed?

EG: Yeah, he was booed.
EP:

Ezell says that Dr. Dowdy tried to talk, but nobody would listen to him, [and] that he [Blair] spoke, that [A&T faculty member] Darwin Turner spoke. Do you remember all this?

EG:

I don't remember the people who spoke. I know, I don't even know what President Dowdy said. I just know that the group was very much not willing to listen to him. And I do remember some booing.

EP:

How long did you stay there?

EG:

At the auditorium?

EP:

Yes.

EG:

I don't recall. I, I think we, we stayed as long as something was going on, you know, were trying to figure out what was going to happen. I remember standing outside. We were talking about the experience and now what had happened. And here we were out and we weren't sure what we had. And it was kind of frustrating. And then, by being from Greensboro and being—my father worked in that auditorium so, of course, he was there. And he was aware that I was coming out of jail, you know, and they were anxious for me to get home, you know, to come home. And I eventually went on home.

EP:

You didn't meet with any CORE officials or anything?

EG:

I don't recall anything that night.

EP:

I see. What did you do subsequently? Did you return to demonstrating?

EG:

I don't, I don't even recall any further demonstrating.

EP:

Well, there were, there were, there was a truce between May twenty-fifth and June third when apparently there were no marches. And then Jesse Jackson led what appeared to be a maverick march on June second. And some ultimata were given to the city that if you don't come through with something by Monday, June third, then we're going to return to demonstrating. And eventually marches did resume June third. Did you participate in any more marches or picketing at any of the targets?

EG:

I, if anything, after that time it was just marching. And I don't even recall any specific thing. My role at the pre—the rallies, the rallies just before the marches was to lead the songs or to play the organ. And so I was at all of those rallies, you know, at almost—well, as far as I know, all of the rallies.

EP:

Do you recall what was said at the rallies?

EG:

At any particular rally?

EP:

Yes.

EG:

Or the rallies in general?

EP:

Well, either way.

EG:

Well, usually there was—all the ground rules were usually laid out prior to going downtown or going to wherever we would go. And usually at those rallies, it would be to have a demonstration march down Market Street to Elm Street and over to, I don't know the name of the street, and then back down. The streets weren't quite the same as they are now, but that was generally the route. And sometimes there were just those marches. It was just to go downtown and to come back.

EP:

Did you continue to serve as a marshal or a monitor?

EG:

I think almost every time we went downtown I was—I, I don't really remember. I can't recall. I served sometimes. But usually the people selected would be the largest people, and I wasn't very large. And then sometimes I was and sometimes I wasn't.

EP:

How did people know which target to go to? Were they told just to follow certain people or told to go to a certain establishment?

EG:

We would, always we talked through with a place that we were going. And from then on we also knew that the people who would lead the march and we would just simply follow those people.

EP:

Okay, what was described to me—the reason I asked that is someone said that targets were identified, and that there were marshals, and that, you know, one group would split off to the Mayfair and another to the S&W, others would continue on to the theatres. Were specific individuals assigned to lead specific groups or was it—

EG:

Yes, yes they were. Now what I was talking about wasn't the times that we actually went to those specific places. Sometimes there were just demonstration marches where you just walk downtown, where you walk by. We, we'd always go by S&W because it was always on the route. And sometimes we'd just go straight down and go over a block, come up a couple of blocks and back over to Market, and back over to Providence Baptist Church. At other times, we would break off and go to target places. But also, in some of those times there would be arrests. You know, go there and stand and try to get in.

EP:

And it was always told whether or not you were just going to march or whether you were going to certain targets and that people were expected to be arrested?

EG:

I don't think every time that was told.

EP:

Sometimes it was just ad lib?

EG:

[unclear] we weren't—at those rallies [it was] hard to know who was infiltrating and who wasn't.

EP:

Infiltrating?

EG:

Or who was there with [unclear] here or there.

EP:

Were there—was there always a post-march rally?

EG:

I think more, more often there was. I remember we had to have them to go uptown. We had to have them to organize the group and to establish the ground rules. And then afterwards, I know there were several times that afterwards we'd have to talk about what had happened and what we thought the results would be.

EP:

Do you recall—

EG:

But I'm not sure that that happened with every one of them.

EP:

Do you recall what, what the specifics were about what they thought the results would be? Did they ever say that they thought these places would now open up?

EG:

No, I don't ever recall thinking that anybody would open. It may have, it may have been something that was said but I don't ever recall.

EP:

Did different people address different rallies?

EG:

Usually, I don't recall it being a variety of people. Usually, the same people, the same people and I'm trying to think who the same people are.

EP:

Bill Thomas?

EG:

I know Bill talked.

EP:

How about Jesse Jackson?

EG:

I don't have recollections of Jesse being a leader in any of those meetings.

EP:

Were you or any other people kind of surprised when he started leading the marches, in as much as he had not been a long time participant in the demonstrations and a member of CORE?

EG:

Maybe. My earlier impressions of Jesse were that he always capitalized on whatever seemed to be successful, and that's my, my recollection.

EP:

In other words, people did not generally regard him as a leader.

EG:

No, no.

EP:

He was more a figurehead?

EG:

More, more of that. He usually would say a prayer somewhere. Or he, he, he was, obviously was a leader, but he wasn't a leader of that group. He did come into that group and assume a leadership role. That was more after than when it was actually going. He wasn't the person who organized in the summer of '62. He wasn't a person who was involved as far as I know—

EP:

Did you sit—

EG:

—during '63 until very late. In fact, when he was involved it was, it was when everybody was involved.

EP:

Did you sit in on the meetings in the executive committee?

EG:

Of CORE?

EP:

Yes.

EG:

I believe so in the very early, formative days of CORE, but that wasn't when things were really happening.

EP:

So, so even though you were a treasurer during the heat of it in May '63, you did not attend strategy planning sessions of the executive committee?

EG:

I think I was in some of the strategy meetings, but I didn't—I never considered myself any real leader in that group. And I don't even, I have very vague memories of executive committees, but I do remember going to strategy meetings.

EP:

Did you ever contribute?

EG:

I'm sure if I was there I did, yes. But I, I never made any, any of, any part of the decision to where we were going. I'm not sure who did that.

EP:

I have been told that plans were presented to the general membership and then later at the mass meetings for approval, a mass vote. But the sense I'm getting from you is that really most people were presented with a fait accompli of something that had been decided by the executive committee or a small group of the most influential people. Which would be a more accurate assessment?

EG:

I would think the last is a more accurate—at least in what I can recall. Because I was, I was involved from way back, but I have very little recollection of actually making a decision. You know, I know we talked about strategies. I know we debated over what we thought was right and what was wrong. But the ultimate decision, I'm just not certain how we came up with the actual strategy.

EP:

Did you sit down on Greene Street on the night of June fifth? This would have been one night prior.

EG:

I did sit down on Greene Street. It's—and I think that was a march that was similar to the one that went to Elm and Market.

EP:

Do you recall what happened? For instance, did you see the confrontation between Jesse Jackson and Captain William Jackson?

EG:

I just have nothing but a vague recollection of that.

EP:

Did you know that you were going to sit down on the street when you left? Or was it a surprise?

EG:

I, I don't think I knew that.

EP:

Just people suddenly given the order to march into the street and sit down, and they did?

EG:

Yes.

EP:

How long did you remain seated?

EG:

I don't recall.

EP:

The newspaper indicates that it couldn't have been more than ten minutes, and no arrests were made.

EG:

I think that's what we thought was going to happen at Market and at Elm, but they were ready.

EP:

I see.

EG:

We got there and they were ready [laughs].

EP:

Did, did you have any input into CORE's capitalizing on Jesse Jackson's arrest the next morning?

EG:

No, I didn't.

EP:

Were you present when he was arrested?

EG:

No. I don't recall that at all.

EP:

Well, how did you know to, to come to the meeting the next night, the night of the sit-in on the square?

EG:

I think it must have happened in the post-rally, because there weren't a few people who knew about it, you know. Lots of people knew that we were going to do that. And I never recall getting a word that we were going to do something in class or, you know, at school. It was, it was generally was a word that got out and seemed—say, we're going to meet here tomorrow night or we're going to have a rally tomorrow night. And when we'd have the rally, the plan for what was going to happen would be revealed. And usually the people in the—most of the people who were at the rally would then participate in whatever the plan was.

EP:

What happened—all right, you say you and your mother, after this exchange with the policeman after the sit-in in the square, what happened after that? Did you participate in—there was one more march the next day. And then apparently the mayor held this meeting, these meetings with these business reps and a moratorium was called on demonstrations for the entire summer. And the mayor had started meeting with this organization called the Coordinating Council for Pro-Integration Groups. What did you do subsequently for the rest of that summer?

EG:

The summer of '63?

EP:

Yes.

EG:

Right after jail, I went to the March on Washington. I guess it was right after jail. It was—I'm not even sure of the date of the March on Washington.

EP:

That would have been in August.

EG:

In August, okay. So that was right after—I left Greensboro and through Dick Ramsey, I had been accepted in a work-in-the-community group sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.

EP:

Where?

EG:

And I went to Nashville.

EP:

Nashville.

EG:

And I went to Nashville and somehow I thought I was going North. I don't know where I thought I was going. I had never been in that direction at all. And this was a—working in community organizations like, one of them was, I worked specifically in a hospital for the mentally retarded during that summer. But there were twelve of us and we were from all over the United States, and, and we were living in a house in Nashville. It was an integrated group and it was my first time interacting on a very personal level with kids my own age. And I went right from jail and final exams—in fact, I missed final exams and so I had to clear that up.

EP:

What did you do? You would take them later?

EG:

Well, my major was architectural engineering and there were—all the demonstrations were happening right at the time when there were many finished—many projects that had to be finished. So I had to go back to my professors and try to arrange for the removal of incompletes, and I got incomplete in almost every subject.

EP:

Were they sympathetic?

EG:

And [unclear] to take exams and then to finish projects that I had to submit. So I had to do all that before I could leave Greensboro. So I spent my time between jail and leaving, leaving the armory—that was the last time I was incarcerated—from then till some point I was trying to clear my grades, which had all been incomplete and to keep from getting Fs. Once I had completed that, I then went to Nashville, and I stayed there for twelve weeks. And it must have been immediately after that that I came back to Greensboro, and Bill or somebody told me that they were sending me to the March on Washington.

EP:

Did you have to pay your own way?

EG:

No, I didn't. I didn't pay my way.

EP:

How did you go up there?

EG:

There was a bus that went from Greensboro.

EP:

What time did you leave? Was it in the morning?

EG:

Well, let's see. It must have been at night, at night like midnight, because we were there in time for the morning, you know, the day of the march. We were, we were there that morning and we did not spend the night in Washington.

EP:

What did you do when you were—

EG:

We left and came on back to Greensboro.

EP:

I see. What did you do when you got there?

EG:

Well, we stayed as a group but, you know, just entered or tried to find out where it was starting and moved over to where it was starting, and then participated in the march to the Lincoln Memorial. Just stood there and observed more than anything.

EP:

Did you hear all of the speeches?

EG:

Oh, yes, yes.

EP:

And you heard King's famous speech?

EG:

Yes, yes.

EP:

Were you pretty far back or where were you in the crowd?

EG:

No, I was close enough to see faces, you know. It was a memory that I don't forget. I had been to Washington before and I had relatives in Washington, but I didn't even—I was not there long enough to even contact any relatives.

EP:

Did you stay together as a group or was it more or less an individual thing?

EG:

I was with some people from Greensboro. I'm not sure if—I, I don't even recall if everybody on that bus was from Greensboro. In fact I don't think they were. But I was with some people that I had gone there with. I don't even recall who they were.

EP:

Given your experiences in Greensboro earlier that spring and summer, what was your reaction when you heard these speeches, particularly King's speech? Did you feel this is going to be a big breakthrough? Were you inspired, or what? Skeptical?

EG:

Oh, gosh, I don't know. I was inspired. I had had a very shocking experience in Nashville. As I said, I went there and it was the first time that I, I had white friends who were my age. And in that particular group there were only two blacks and the rest were white. And two of the white, two of those what I considered white were Jews. And it was a first experience of that sort. We lived in the same house, we prepared our food.

There was a couple that was the coordinators or overseers of the group who were just slightly older than we were. They had graduated from college. They were married, and they graduated from college and had been around the world, and now were doing this thing for the American Friends Service Committee. And we had become very close. We had talked about the racial issues.

We had had some threats in Nashville, and I, as I said, when I went to Nashville I thought I was having a timeout from civil rights. And then I got into Nashville, and Dick Ramsey and I, and it seems like one other person from Nashville who evidently was coordinating our being there, went to a downtown restaurant. And I had thought nothing at all about going into this restaurant, which was—I think I was the only black person in that restaurant. And we learned later that we were the, I was the first black known to eat in that particular restaurant in Nashville.

But I had no idea that I was the first. I had thought that it was a place that had been open for some time. We didn't find out until later in the summer when we were talking to some of the leaders in the demonstrations in Nashville that the first that they had heard of blacks being in there was when—they named the date and who had been, you know, that it happened to be, [and] it all came together. It must have been when we were there.

EP:

And no incident occurred then?

EG:

No incident. But later in the summer we had several incidents at our house because we were an integrated group, and because the two blacks were male and six of the group were females and they were white. It was perceived that all kinds of things were going on in that house. And so toward the, almost the end of our stay in Nashville, we were threatened—

EP:

What, by telephone?

EG:

No, cars would come by and they would throw things at the house. And we went through a period of a scare and the police were watching the house for a while. Though I was having a very, very good experience with having lived in an integrated group, this was the first time that I had really felt very scared.

Now in Greensboro, one incident occurred in my senior year in high school. I had gone to the post office. And some white fellows had stopped and talked to me, and they seemed very friendly. And they said, “Come on, let's ride out and have a beer.” And I got in the car and they took me, oh, about eight or nine miles out from Greensboro and into some woods. And I escaped with only a black eye and some other little things.

EP:

What, they beat you up?

EG:

Yeah, and I escaped by running, and ran through some woods and some swamp area. Found myself on Huffine Mill Road, I think it is. I was afraid to come out on the major highway because I didn't know whether they were going to come by and see me. And went to a couple of houses and nobody would help me. And I had a grandmother who lived in that area. Once I finally discovered where I was, I then walked a few miles to my grandmother's house. And then we called in and called the police and they came out. Nothing happened after that, but that was in '60 or '61. It was probably the agitation of having had sit-ins in the city.

EP:

So the police did investigate—

EG:

But that's the only time I had a real scare.

EP:

Yeah. The police did investigate it?

EG:

They did, yes. I never found out what happened, you know, what—I don't know if they ever caught the guys or what. I don't know whatever happened, but I never got a report on the outcome of that.

EP:

Is that the only time you ever had any physical abuse?

EG:

Yeah, yeah that was the only, only time that ever happened. Usually in my growing up in Greensboro, it was just a, someone licking their tongue out at me or calling me a name but never anything physical.

EP:

When you returned from the March on Washington, what did you do?

EG:

I don't recall anything other than getting ready for school, getting ready to start again and try catching up in school.

EP:

Were you involved in any civil rights activities after that?

EG:

I don't recall any. Of course, see the—Greensboro opened sometime during that summer, see. From then on, things were open.

EP:

Did you continue to go to CORE meetings?

EG:

I don't even remember CORE meetings after that.

EP:

So, all this time you were a treasurer and you never officially resigned from that office or from CORE, you just—

EG:

I don't remember us resolving or electing new officers or anything after the organization of '62.

EP:

It just kind of fell apart, huh?

EG:

Yeah, yeah.

EP:

Well—

EG:

The main, the main thrust I had thought was what had happened in '63. And then when—I was in Nashville when I heard that things had opened in Greensboro. And after, after that I don't recall any other formal meetings of any sort, or any rallies or demonstrations.

EP:

And you graduated when?

EG:

I actually graduated in '67. Sixty-five was the year that I should have graduated.

EP:

Is there some reason why there was a delay or—

EG:

I think what happened to me was being in the school of engineering, it's difficult at best. And then when, when you get behind in any one of the courses at A&T at that time, you've missed a course during a quarter, that automatically delayed you a year because it was only offered—we were on a quarter system at the time. If you missed a course the spring quarter, or if you did poorly and had to take that course over again—I had to take quite a few courses over again. It threw me a whole year behind. And, of course, if that threw you a year behind in those courses, if you had follow-on courses that threw you a year behind in those. Just catching up was tremendously difficult.

And I was in architecture and we spent a lot of time in design. And most of the guys in architecture were there all night and all day. And of course, if I was in jail missing those nights and days, it was very difficult to catch up with that kind of work. And those courses weren't offered but once a year. And I was doing a lot of catching up, you know, trying to catch up with my work after that.

EP:

Did you maintain contact with people you had known in CORE or did you leave Greensboro or what upon graduation?

EG:

Upon graduation, I left Greensboro. Bill Thomas and I are still friends, still fairly close friends. And my wife and his wife, all four of us are close. Close enough for us to still have plans to go together to see Dreamgirls [on Broadway] in New York next month.

EP:

Did—at the time all this was going on, did you meet he [Bill Thomas] or any other of your personal friends that were in CORE and did you discuss it, or was there not time for that?

EG:

During that time?

EP:

During the—when the demonstrations were going on.

EG:

Yes, I saw Bill and we talked but I don't remember formal meetings.

EP:

Well, I meant informally, just as friends.

EG:

Oh, yes, yeah we did.

EP:

Did you speculate on what the plans were or what was going to happen or anything?

EG:

Yes, but Bill's—I thought Bill was different, in that when we were in our meetings he was one person, when we were on campus he was another. He wasn't particularly business.

EP:

So he liked to keep them separate, is that what you're saying?

EG:

Yes, I felt that way.

EP:

Have you talked about it subsequently when you've gotten together?

EG:

We have only recently—we talked about it last summer for the first time. We went to our high school reunion in Greensboro, and for many of us it was the first time seeing each other. Now, Bill and I had seen each other periodically for the past few years. Our families have stayed with each other occasionally. But there were other persons who were in our high school class who hadn't been around. And Lewis Brandon who lives there in Greensboro, we all met at his house after we had a function there with the reunion, the class reunion, and then we went over to Lewis Brandon's. And several of us were some of the original people and it was our first time of really getting together and talking at all. And there's a book that—

EP:

Civilities and Civil Rights?

EG:

Yes. And we were talking about that, that book and what was said and—we hadn't read it, we were just hearing Lewis' impressions of it. And he read little parts out loud and we talked a little, laughed a little, reminisced. A person that I didn't see and we didn't mention is Bill's sister. It seems to me that she was involved—

EP:

Antoinette?

EG:

Yeah, it seems to me that she was involved in those early meetings. She was a regular member. You know, she was a part of the group more than not a part of the group.

EP:

What is your career now? What is your occupation?

EG:

Now I'm working as a deputy Equal Employment Opportunity officer, which is something new for me, but for the past three years I've been working in this position. I worked immediately after college as an architect in the, for the Navy and an engineering group, a public works engineering group. And I worked there—I'm still at the same place, I still work for the Navy, but I worked first in the engineering office for ten years. And then I moved over from the engineering to program management.

And then a commanding officer where I worked asked me if I would be interested in the job as a deputy or officer, and all of a sudden I'm really right back in civil rights. And I hadn't particularly thought of being in a job like this, but this is three and a half years that I've been in it and it's interesting. But it's the kind of job that I think you could easily burn out of because—the thing that bothers me most about it is that a lot of people are having the same kind of problems that people were talking about fifteen years ago, twenty years ago.

EP:

So not that much has been accomplished really.

EG:

I think there has been something accomplished, but we're still working with people whose attitudes have not sufficiently changed to show.

EP:

Well, do you think—what—just by way of summing up—do you—what are your overall impressions about the demonstrations and what they accomplished in Greensboro?

EG:

Well, whenever I talk about it—I don't talk about it that much, but whenever I talk or think about it now, I think that it was important that it happened when it did. It's more important to me now when I talk to someone who is just a few years younger than I am and they don't remember having to go to the third balcony in the Carolina Theatre, or not ever being able to go into the restaurants downtown. Of course, Greensboro's changed though. I hardly recognize the downtown area. I don't really recognize Greensboro, it's changed around so much.

But what happened there, I guess, has spread throughout. And I really feel like what happened in Greensboro was the beginning of what happened all over the country. And yet there wasn't a strong relationship to Martin Luther King. We admired him but I only remember him in Greensboro one time. And we weren't really associated with the King movement, except that we were capitalizing on the nonviolent part, which is something that he talked about.

EP:

Do you think Greensboro is kind of like a watershed or a guide that was emulated in other demonstrations?

EG:

We felt so because we knew that the sit-ins, the first time we heard “sit-in,” it was something that had happened in Greensboro, and Ezell was there when we started again. And we started again because it seemed that, you know, everything had just become stagnant. You know, whatever had been accomplished with the first sit-ins seemed to have died down and everybody had, I think, thought that nothing else is going to happen. And we were getting together to try to start it up again. And we were trying to start it up again because we had seen that it had influenced others.

[End of Interview]